TIME Basketball

New York Knicks Star Anthony Mason Dead at 48

New York Knicks Anthony Mason during game against Chicago Bu
Linda Cataffo—New York Daily News/Getty Images Anthony Mason during a game against the Chicago Bulls, May 12, 1996.

The 6-foot-7 Mason won the NBA's Sixth Man award in 1995

The New York Knicks say Anthony Mason, a rugged power forward who was a defensive force for several NBA teams in the 1990s, has died. He was 48.

Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz confirmed Mason’s death, which was first reported Saturday by the New York Daily News.

The 6-foot-7 Mason won the NBA’s Sixth Man award in 1995 with a Knicks team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in one of its classic clashes with the Indiana Pacers.

Mason played for New York from 1991-1996, and then for the Charlotte Hornets until 2000. He made his only All-Star team in 2001 as a member of the Miami Heat.

TIME Egypt

Egypt Court Declares Hamas ‘Terrorist Organization’

Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City
Suhaib Salem—Reuters Palestinian members of al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, display their weapons during a military parade marking the 27th anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City Dec. 14, 2014. The Palestinian group has been declared a terrorist organization by an Egyptian court.

The Palestinian group once enjoyed support of Egypt's deposed Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a Cairo court has declared Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a “terrorist organization.”

The short report Saturday by MENA said the Court For Urgent Matters, presided over by Judge Mohamed el-Sayed, issued the ruling Saturday. It did not elaborate.

Last month, an Egyptian court banned Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and also designated it a terrorist organization.

The ruling further isolates Hamas, which once found open support under Egypt’s toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt’s new government recently has begun clearing a buffer zone along its border with Gaza in an attempt to destroy a cross-border network of tunnels that Hamas considers a lifeline.

In Gaza, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri condemned the decision and urged Egypt to reverse course.

 

TIME Crime

Marathon Bombing Trial Will Stay in Boston

FBI Release Images Of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects
Handout—Getty Images In this image released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on April 19, 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19-years-old, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing is seen.

Trial is set to begin next week

Publicity hasn’t jeopardized Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s right to an impartial jury, a federal appeals panel says, and opening statements can proceed next week as scheduled in the city where the deadly explosions occurred almost two years ago.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said in a 2-1 ruling Friday that a U.S. district judge correctly denied Tsarnaev’s requests on three occasions to move the trial, especially given the “particularly unusual” timing with jury selection already underway.

“The process has been thorough and appropriately calibrated to expose bias, ignorance and prevarication,” the majority said of Judge George O’Toole Jr. almost daily sessions with potential jurors that began nearly two months ago.

Chief Judge Sandra Lynch and Judge Jeffrey Howard said the ongoing jury selection process did not suggest pervasive prejudice and that it was not clear that pretrial publicity required a change of venue. The defense did not demonstrate irreparable harm if the trial remained in Boston, they said.

“Any high-profile case will receive significant media attention,” the majority said. “Knowledge, however, does not equate to disqualifying prejudice. Distinguishing between the two is at the heart of the jury selection process.”

The judges also noted that other high-profile terrorism cases such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the man who became known as the “20th hijacker” from the Sept. 11 attacks, occurred in the district where the crimes occurred.

In his dissent, Judge Juan Torruella agreed with Tsarnaev’s lawyers that intense media coverage of the case and the large number of people personally affected by the deadly attack made it impossible for him to find a fair and impartial jury in Massachusetts.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013.

“If a change of venue is not required in a case like this, I cannot imagine a case where it would be,” Torruella wrote. “If residents of the Eastern Division of the District of Massachusetts did not already resent Tsarnaev and predetermine his guilt, the constant reporting on the Marathon bombing and its aftermath could only further convince the prospective jurors of his guilt.”

A defense attorney did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on the ruling. In arguments Feb. 19 before the appeals court, federal public defender Judith Mizner said the local jury pool is “connected to the case in many ways” and cannot be counted on to be fair and impartial.

“This attack was viewed as an attack on the marathon itself … and an attack on the city of Boston,” Mizner said.

She also argued that the trial needed to be moved to maintain public confidence in the judicial system.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb told the appeals court that prospective jurors who have strong opinions have “unhesitatingly admitted” them, allowing the judge to rule them out as jurors.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Friday on the ruling.

A jury of 12 jurors and six alternates is to be seated early next week followed by opening statements Wednesday. If the jury reaches a guilty verdict, the same panel will decide whether Tsarnaev lives or dies. The only possible punishments are life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

TIME

Senate Approves 1-Week Funding Bill for Homeland Security

House Fails To Pass Bill Funding Homeland Security Department
Win McNamee—Getty Images The U.S. Capitol is seen at dusk as the U.S. Congress struggles to find a solution to fund the Department of Homeland Security on Feb. 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate has approved a bill to ensure full funding of the Homeland Security Department for one week, sending the measure to the House just hours before the agency faces a partial shutdown.

By voice vote late Friday, the Senate backed the bill.

It came a few hours after the House, in a surprise move, rejected a bill to grant the department a three-week extension. Republicans objected to the measure for failing to roll back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and Democrats opposed it for failing to fund the department through the end of the budget year.

TIME

Stopgap Homeland Security Spending Bill Fails in House

House To Vote On Homeland Security Funding Bill
Mark Wilson—Getty Images House Speaker John Boehner at the US Capitol, Feb. 27, 2015 in Washington, DC.

(WASHINGTON) — The House has rejected a stopgap spending bill for the Homeland Security Department with just hours to go before a midnight deadline to fund the agency or see it begin to partially shut down.

The surprise 224-203 defeat of the legislation was a major embarrassment for House GOP leaders. Next steps were not immediately clear.

Some conservatives opposed the bill because it left out provisions to block executive actions President Barack Obama took on immigration, which Republicans have vowed to overturn.

House leaders tried to win lawmakers over arguing a three-week extension bought them more time to fight Obama while his immigration directives are on hold in court.

But conservatives abandoned the bill in droves and Democrats refused to make up the difference, pressing for a full-year funding bill instead.

TIME

California Farmers to Go Another Year Without Federal Water

Irrigation water runs along the dried-up ditch between the rice farms to provide water for the rice fields in Richvale, Calif on May 1, 2014.
Jae C. Hong—AP Irrigation water runs along the dried-up ditch between the rice farms to provide water for the rice fields in Richvale, Calif on May 1, 2014.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — A federal agency said Friday it will not release any water for Central Valley farms this year, forcing farmers to continue to scramble for other sources or leave fields unplanted.

It will be the second year of no federal water for farmers in the region that grows much of the nation’s produce. Many farmers had been bracing for the news as California’s drought enters its fourth year.

David Murillo, mid-Pacific regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said federal officials are doing everything possible to increase water deliveries during the dire dry conditions.

“Our economy and our environment depend on it,” he said.

The Central Valley Project conveys water through a system of dams and reservoirs and 500 miles of canals. The agency says it can irrigate up to a third of California’s agricultural land when water is flowing.

Even before supplies were cut off, federal water has become a less dependable source for farmers. Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley only received 10 percent of demand in 2009 and 20 percent in 2013.

Farmers are instead turning to storage supplies and pumping from largely unregulated groundwater wells that are quickly being depleted.

Paul Wegner, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the federal government’s announcement is another sign California needs to speed up construction of water storage projects and reform laws requiring the government to prioritize water to preserve fish species and the environment.

“It’s maddening because California still struggles to manage water wisely and flexibly, especially in dry years,” he said in a news release.

Some communities and endangered wildlife that rely on the federal water source will also suffer cuts.

California has a separate state-operated system of reservoirs and canal which increased distribution this year. The State Water Project announced last month that it could provide local agencies and farmers 15 percent of the water they requested, a slight increase from 5 percent last year.

The water in the snowpack, California’s primary water source, is at a fifth of its normal level, according to state officials.

TIME Economy

U.S. Economy Slowed Down at Close of 2014

But economists still forecast strongest growth in a decade this year

The U.S. economy slowed more sharply in the final three months of the year than initial estimates, reflecting weaker business stockpiling and a bigger trade deficit.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the economy as measured by the gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the October-December quarter, weaker than the 2.6 percent first estimated last month. It marked a major slowdown from the third quarter, which had been the strongest growth in 11 years.

Economists, however, remain optimistic that the deceleration was temporary. Many forecast that growth will rise above 3 percent in 2015, which would give the country the strongest economic growth in a decade. They say the job market has healed enough to generate strong consumer spending going forward.

For all of 2014, the economy expanded 2.4 percent, up slightly from 2.2 percent growth in 2013.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, was a bright spot in the fourth quarter. It expanded at an annual rate of 4.2 percent, down slightly from the first estimate of 4.3 percent growth but still the best showing since the first quarter of 2006.

Friday’s report was the second of three estimates for fourth quarter GDP, the broadest measure of the economy’stotal output of goods and services.

The downward revision stemmed largely from slower stockpiling by businesses. Last month, the rise in inventories was estimated to have added 0.8 percentage points to fourth quarter growth. But that was lowered to a contribution of just 0.1 percentage point in the new estimate. The change, however, will likely translate into stronger growth in the current quarter because businesses will not have to work down an overhang of unsold goods.

Trade also weighed more heavily on growth than first thought, subtracting 1.2 percentage points as imports grew much more strongly than first thought. That could be a reflection of the rising value of the dollar, which makes imported products cheaper for U.S. consumers.

Many analysts believe 2015 will start slowly, in part reflecting the disruptions caused by a rough winter. However, it’s unlikely to be as bad as the first quarter of 2014, when heavy snow and cold contributed to a 2.1 percent plunge in growth in the first quarter of 2014.

That big drop was followed by sizzling growth rates of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Analysts are looking for less of a roller-coaster ride this year. JPMorgan economists say growth will come in around 2.5 percent in the current quarter and then hover between 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the rest of the year. They are forecasting growth of 3.1 percent for the entire year, a significant improvement from the 2.4 percent growth seen in 2014.

If the forecast proves accurate, it would be the best GDP performance since the economy grew by 3.3 percent in 2005, two years before the beginning of worst economic downturn the country has experienced since the 1930s.

Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisers, is even more optimistic. He’s forecasting economic growth of 3.5 percent this year.

Naroff and other economists believe the key to the economy shifting into a higher gear will be further improvements in the labor market, when stronger job gains leading to rising wage gains.

“I see 2015 as a really good year for consumer spending because of the wage gains,” Naroff said.

Even though the recession ended nearly six years ago, wage growth has been weak as businesses were able to pay less with so many unemployed looking for jobs.

Several large companies have already signaled a willingness to pay more to retain workers. Retailers like TJX and The Gap, as well as the health insurer Aetna.

News last week that Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, would also increase its minimum pay could be a sign that a tighter labor market are finally leading to increased wages, some analysts believe.

The unemployment has fallen to 5.7 percent.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, testifying to Congress this week, listed stronger wage growth as one of the elements the central bank is looking for before deciding to start raising interest rates. She said as long as wage gains remained weak and inflation low, the Fed was prepared to remain “patient” in moving to raise rates.

Many private economists believe the Fed’s first move to increase its key rate, which has been near a record low of zero for six years, will not come until June at the earliest.

TIME Denmark

Police Arrest Third Man Suspected of Helping Copenhagen Gunman

The Copenhagen attacks on Feb. 14 - 15 left two people dead

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish police say they have arrested a third man suspected of assisting a gunman who killed two people in attacks in Copenhagen this month.

Police in Copenhagen declined to comment further on the Friday arrest, other than saying the “young man” would face a custody hearing Saturday. The suspect was not named.

A Copenhagen court on Thursday gave another four weeks in custody to two other men accused of helping Omar El-Hussein, who used an assault rifle to kill a Danish filmmaker attending a free speech event Feb. 14 in Copenhagen.

Hours later, El-Hussein killed a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue on Feb. 15 with a handgun. Five police officers also were wounded in both episodes. El-Hussein was killed in a police shootout later that day.

TIME Mexico

Mexico Captures Drug Lord Who Led Knights Templar Cartel

Servando Gomez Martinez, aka La Tuta, in Mexico City in June 2009.
Secretaria de Seguridad Publica/AFP/Getty Images Servando Gomez Martinez, aka La Tuta, in Mexico City in June 2009.

Servando "La Tuta" Gomez had been on the run for over a year

A Mexican federal official says federal police have captured Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, one of the most-wanted drug lords and who once terrorized western Michoacan state.

The official says Gomez was captured early Friday in the capital city of Morelia without a shot fired. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Gomez was the leader of the Knights Templar cartel, a quasi-religious criminal group that once ruled all of the state, controlling politics and commerce. He evaded capture for more than a year after the federal government took over the state to try to restore order.

TIME Turkey

Turkish Police Arrest Suspected Suicide Bomber Outside U.S. Consulate

Turkish forensic officers prepare to remove a vehicle front of the US consulate in Istanbul on Feb. 27, 2015.
Ozan Kose—AFP/Getty Images Turkish forensic officers prepare to remove a vehicle front of the US consulate in Istanbul on Feb. 27, 2015.

Istanbul has been on high alert since a suicide bomber blew herself up at a police station in January, killing one police officer

ISTANBUL — A Turkish news agency says police have detained man who claimed to have explosives attached on his body, outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. The man was described as “mentally unstable”

The Dogan news agency says police arrested the man who stood outside the consulate building on Friday, his hand placed inside his coat.

It was not immediately known whether the man, who was not identified, was carrying explosives.

Police in Istanbul would not immediately comment.

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